17 October 2005 | voyager_ix
Very subtle, and rather impressive
Although it certainly won't be everybody's cup of tea, "Everlasting Regret" is a fine example of a movie which reveals more by what it _doesn't_ show than by what it actually presents on-screen. Stanley Kwan undertakes the difficult task of telling the history of a city (Shanghai, roughly from the 1940s to the 1980s) through the personal histories of a few of its citizens -- without hardly ever showing a shot of the city itself.
Indeed, music, clothes and hairstyles are nearly all we get in view of clues as to the passage of time, and some key events -- whether personal or political -- are barely even commented upon, much less shown directly. This admittedly makes the film somewhat difficult to follow (and presupposes at least a basic knowledge of recent Chinese history), but at the same time it manages to make the experience much more emotional and, well, _personal_ than a 'standard' historical piece would ever achieve. Instead of staging elaborate historical events and recreating architecture, Kwan masterfully focuses on the personal details and the effects these historical events (together with the passage of time itself) have had on the characters' lives. To see (or better yet: to feel) these effects, you need to concentrate on the details: the clothes, the furniture, the design of cups and glasses, the looks exchanged and the gazes averted.
The details are supposedly where the devil is -- but it's also where the beauty of this film lies. For those of you who like to play the comparison game: "Everlasting Regret" is like a tranquilized Wong Kar Wai with a political background, or an emotional, de-contextualized Hou Hsiao-hsien. Be that as it may, if you're interested in 'serious' Asian cinema, you certainly won't feel any regrets about giving this one a chance.